If you think that hanging "whites only" signs on the doors of private businesses, including hospitals and schools, should remain illegal, you're not a Libertarian.
And if you think that the state shouldn't be used to forcibly evict families from their homes because the landlord doesn't like their skin color, then Libertarianism isn't for you.
If you don't want to join the Klan, the Libertarian Party might be the next best thing if you want anti-discrimination laws repealed.
And there is no middle ground.
The state cannot be neutral when it comes to discrimination laws. It either enforces the "right to discriminate" or in enforces anti-discrimination laws.
Libertarians believe that people and private businesses should have the right to discriminate against anyone for any reason. And the state would need to enforce that "right."
They are wrong.
For the sake of truth in advertising, let's examine the two planks of the Libertarian Party platform that speak directly to this issue, with the sentence in bold highlighting the crux of Anonone's concern:
2.0 Economic LibertyA free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.
2.1 Property and ContractProperty rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights. The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. We oppose all controls on wages, prices, rents, profits, production, and interest rates. We advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade. The right to trade includes the right not to trade — for any reasons whatsoever. Where property, including land, has been taken from its rightful owners by the government or private action in violation of individual rights, we favor restitution to the rightful owners.
I have already stated, to the chagrin of some of my Libertarian colleagues, that in the sense of the sentence in bold--The right to trade includes the right not to trade — for any reasons whatsoever.--I find myself being more of a Constitutionalist than a Libertarian. The Libertarian position as outlined in the platform, works in a functional society among individuals engaging in voluntary trade, but I think the creation of gigantic concentrations of wealth in national, multi-national, and trans-national corporations [almost invariably followed by monopolistic and anti-free market attempts to influence the power of the State or States on their behalf] changes the equation.
Wal-Mart is fundamentally different in organizational structure and legal standing than a small business run by the guy who lives down the street. Wal-mart has reached the point of critical mass in which I believe that it very nearly qualifies for inclusion with the government under the following language from the LP platform:
3.5 Rights and DiscriminationWe condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs.
If I ran the zoo at Libertarian central [and it's not a sure bet, even with Wes in charge these days, that anybody is really running that zoo), the wording would probably be that Government and large corporations should not deny or abridge any individual's rights....
Yeah, I know large corporations is vague but it is late at night. Give me a break on that one.
What I think Anonone misses, or fails to understand about history is, however, is the fact that systematic discrimination requires the coercive power of the State to survive.
It is the State, and not racist merchants in Selma or Montgomery which legislated the Jim Crow laws that required business people for many decades to run separate but equal establishments.
An individual store owner could refuse to serve African-Americans, and that's despicable--at least to me.
But it requires the power of the State to make it illegal for him to serve African-Americans.
Anonone, the segregated schools and hospitals did not originate through the free market system. They were the creatures of the State, and reflected the worst impulses of a majority of the citizens to inflict their prejudices on everyone else via the coercive power of government.
What entity made it illegal for inter-racial couples throughout the American South to be married for so many decades? It wasn't that every single minister in the South was so prejudiced that the State had to come in and clean them up, it was the State that made it illegal for an African-American woman to marry a European-American man.
This is the unlovely truth that that too many Statists refuse to accept.
After Brown v Board of Education of Topeka KS ended segregated schools, the most effective weapon that segregationists had in their arsenals was the argument of States' Rights, which is an oxymoron to almost any Libertarian. Why? Because the State may have powers, but only people have rights. What segregationists did was, after losing the battle in one level of government, use another level of government to keep discriminating against people of color.
Yes, there was violence and intimidation--and if you look closely, all of those acts were already illegal. They could only go unpunished if the State refused to notice them and prosecute the perpetrators.
This is the problem for Statists, especially for those who are liberal and progressive Statists: they believe in the State as the expression of the public will, or as the promoter of the public interest, but what happens when the majority of the people who vote have in mind the use of the State's powers to suppress the rights of the minority?
The Libertarian thesis--slightly restated from the formulation above--is that as odious as we might find the actions of individual bigots, they cannot hold a candle to the systematic discrimination practiced and enforced by the State.
What's happened today is that we live in an era when people determined to reverse the stains of State discrimination actually took the reins of power in the 1960s, and attempted to legislate the end of discrimination, even to the point of passing laws intended to reverse the effects of past State-sponsored discrimination at the expense of people who had neither caused nor participated in it.
Another bitter truth: you can make specific discriminatory practices illegal, but you cannot wipe out prejudice or discrimination via legislation.
We change those things by the way we act, and what we teach our children, not by the laws we pass.
And--truth be told--the State continues to be the most active force for discrimination in this country today.
It is the State which refuses in most places throughout this country to recognize the marriage rights of LGBT American citizens, or their right to serve openly in the military.
It is the State that tries to pass laws defining who is in your family and who may live in your house [laws proposed by many municipalities to discriminate against Hispanics who are automatically assumed to be illegals].
It is the State that has declared a whole group of people completely in our power [enemy combatants] to be unpersons to the extent that no law or due process protects them from the State's decision to torture them.
It is the State that has declared that no mentally competent seventeen-year-old shall be allowed to vote.
It is the State that has declared that American troops who can be trusted with lethal weapons and the defense of our country cannot be allowed to purchase alcohol until they are twenty-one-years-old.
It is the State that refuses to grant preferential immigration status to certain marital partners based on their sexual orientation.
It is the State which mandates immigration quotas designed to limit the admission of some ethnicities while expanding the opportunities of others.
It is the State that turns twelve-to-fifteen-year-old children experimenting with their sexuality into life-long sex offenders because the State enforces the idea that no one below the age of eighteen can give legal consent to sexual activities.
It is the State that seeks to remedy its own previous injustices not by creating a color-blind or prejudice-free society with a level playing field for everyone, but by introducing yet another system of preferential, State-sponsored discrimination.
Anonone believes that the State is the guarantor against discrimination because the State administers whatever system of discrimination is currently in vogue.
An example: two years ago I was told [with a perfectly straight face, mind you] by a senior academic administrator, that certain behaviors toward a homosexual colleague might be despicable but they did not rise to the level of discrimination because the State did not consider sexual orientation to be covered by anti-discrimination laws.
Yesterday: African-Americans and Native-Americans.
Today: LGBT Americans and Hispanic-Americans [who all probably waded the Rio Grande to get here, huh?]
It is the State which sets the program and rules of discrimination, responding to the baser instincts of voting blocks and special interests.
The Libertarian position is pretty simple, actually: if the State were structurally prohibited from enforcing any system of discrimination, there would still be prejudice and there might be some restuarants serving "whites only" or even just members of "La Raza." And some of them--because human taste is almost infinite in its variety--would survive even in a free market.
But Libertarians believe that if you remove the State from the organized discrimination business [including the part wherein one part of the State protects you from the discrimination practiced by the other part], then the overall amount of discrimination and ill-treatment of people based on gender, national identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc etc would decrease so dramatically that society would begin to look damn near like utopia in that regard.
Libertarians could be wrong about this [and progressives could be wrong about the power of the State to do good, as well], but to suggest--as Anonone has done in the comment above--that Libertarians inherently favor discrimination and ill-treatment of other human beings because they have a different plan for reducing or eliminating it, is not just wrong, it's offensive.
To suggest that membership in the Libertarian Party equates with membership of the KKK does not suggest that there is something wrong with the Libertarian Party, but rather strongly indicates that there is something deficient in your own understanding of politics, history, and human nature.